Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Rav Aharon Lichtenstein - Of Marriage: Relationship & Relations

Tradition Magazine Archives Originally posted 2012 While this is primarily regarding the issue of marriage - it brings in issues relevant to our discussion on gender.
[...] On the other hand, others may find parts of the discussion disturbing, if not objectionable. To some, it may appear to stand in violation of the Mishna’s admonition, as elucidated by the Gemara (Hagiga 11b), against public discussion of the arcane aspects of proscribed sexual liaisons. While the issues herewith treated have received fuller expositions in numerous Torah-oriented books and articles, every accretion may be challenged as an erosion of the proper level of tseni’ut. Of greater concern is the prospect that others, particularly the relatively less initiate, may find the essay unsettling. Perhaps, hitherto fully comfortable with the roseate tinge of some contemporary presentations of Jewish attitudes to sexuality, they may find their personal equipoise adversely affected by exposure to less positive sources. The result may be either some erosion in the quality and enthusiasm of married life, or, conversely, some slippage in respect for pillars of the halakhic world, such as Rambam and Ramban. And this might, in turn, undermine commitment to halakha in its totality

On a broader, and possibly deeper, front, the differences noted between attitudes expressed by Hazal and later formulations raise issues concerning periodization and continuity within the halakhic system; and, for readers not wholly satisfied with suggestions I have tentatively advanced, by way of resolution, the impact may be, again, possibly unsettling.

Despite the ambivalence, I have, obviously, decided to proceed. I have done so not only in the interest of spiritual and intellectual candor but, additionally, on the sanguine assumption that, on balance, the effect will be constructive, inasmuch as most of the readers are already aware of the primary problems and will be spiritually enriched by its systematic analysis, their faith and commitment energized and fortified by the Torah discourse of massa u-matan be-divrei Torah, rather than enervated or diluted. Nevertheless, where spiritual influence is at stake, a measure of trepidation persists. It is my hope and prayer that the Giver of Torah spare and save us from any fault or blemish in its dissemination. [...]

Assuming these facts to be correct—as regards my own spiritual environs, I can attest directly—we ask ourselves: How and why do we depart from positions articulated by some of our greatest—“from whose mouths we live and from whose waters we drink”—and, is this departure legitimate? Are we victims of the Zeitgeist, swept along by general socio-historical currents? Do we tailor our attitude on this issue to conform to appetitive convenience and erotic desire? Have we, in this case, adopted a self-satisfying posture of facile world-acceptance clothed in culturally correct garb? [...]


  1. Excellent.
    P.35 RAL quotes the Rav on Rambam. hThe Rav also says that the Moreh is more strict than Rambam's mainstream views!

  2. Eddie don't see that Rav Soloveitchi is saying what claim. He is not saying that the Rambam offered different mutually exclusive views. He is saying that the Rambam had an ascetic view of sexuality which finds a unique strong expression in the Moreh Nevuchim.

  3. easier to download from Tradition

  4. true - that is the way I set it up

  5. The essay concludes that the present attitude to marriage is based on society's inner conviction that there must be a deeper level to relationships. But that itself is a reflection of modern attitudes. I posit that because Jewish society can no force its members to be frum, its philosophies have become more inviting to encourage people not to leave. The prevalent attitude to marriage is one. The prevailing attitude that Hashem loves every Jew and watches over him with hashgachah pratis (which some rishonim say only applies to tzaddikim) is another. Then there's today's attitude that bitachon means that everything will work out well. Relegated to oblivion are attitudes that life in this world is miserable (Messilas Yeshorim) particularly for tzaddikim (Alshich). Teaching kids about gehinom and yiras ha'onesh is no longer practiced in most circles. Yeshiva guys are told that anyone can become a talmid chacham. Etc.


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